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Thousands of Wash. workers to get furlough notices

Mike Baker, Associated Press

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) -- Washington state agencies prepared Monday to notify thousands of government workers that they may be temporarily laid off starting next week.

Jaime Smith, a spokeswoman for Gov. Jay Inslee, said agencies will send notices to workers later Monday because lawmakers have been unable to finalize a budget. The state is waiting until later in the day to send the letters, in hopes that budget negotiators could at least reach a temporary agreement that could then be described in the worker notifications, Smith said.

At least 25,000 employees would be furloughed if there is no budget deal, according to the Office of Financial Management. The state believes 34 agencies will have to cease operations next week while another 24 agencies would be partially shut down.

Washington's current two-year budget comes to a close at the end of June. Lawmakers have been struggling for several weeks to reach compromise on how to spend government dollars in the coming two years.

Leaders in both parties have repeatedly asserted that they will reach agreement and avoid a government shutdown, although lawmakers have blown past all their other deadlines so far. They were initially supposed to complete a budget in April.

On Monday afternoon, the governor met with Republican leaders to continue negotiations. Inslee planned an afternoon news conference to provide updates on the talks, although Smith said no deal had been reached.

Senate leaders argue that lawmakers in the House are favoring social services programs over education funding. House leaders contend that the Senate is looking to cut some existing human services and health care programs in order to reach some arbitrary goals.